ICCPR Case Digest




Submission: 2022.03.11

View Adopted: 2022.03.11

A. B. Begenchov v. Turkmenistan

Conscientious objection to compulsory military service of a Jehovah’s Witness in Turkmenistan

Substantive Issues
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Freedom of religion
Relevant Articles
  • Article 18.1
  • Article 18.3
  • Article 5.2 (b) - OP1
  • Article 9.1
  • Article 9.3
Full Text


The author of the communication is A. B. Begenchov, a national of Turkmenistan who claims that, by arbitrarily arresting, detaining and imprisoning him for refusing on the basis of his religious beliefs to perform compulsory military service, the State party violated his rights under articles 9 (1), 9 (3), 18 (1) and 18 (3) of the Covenant. The author  is a member of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, based on his religious conscience, he firmly believes that the Holy Scriptures prohibit individuals from taking up arms and performing military service. He is willing to perform alternative civilian service if it is genuinely not of a punitive or deterrent nature. The military commissariat summoned the author to report for military service in 2017, and after his refusal to perform military service because of his religious beliefs, in 2018 he was arrested and placed in pretrial detention without any explanation. After a trial, a court sentenced the author to one year of imprisonment. At the time the communication was submitted, the author was serving his prison sentence.


The Committee regrets the State party’s failure to provide any information regarding the admissibility or the merits of the author’s claims. In the Committee’s view, the author has sufficiently substantiated, for the purpose of admissibility, his claims under articles 9 (1), 9 (3), and 18 , of the Covenant.


The Committee notes the author’s claim that imprisoning him as punishment for refusing to perform military service amounts to arbitrary detention and finds that the State party has violated the author’s rights under article 9 (1) of the Covenant. The Committee also finds that by placing the author in pretrial detention without a need to do so, the State party violated his rights under article 9 (3) of the Covenant. Lastly, the Committee considers that the author’s prosecution, conviction and imprisonment amounted to an infringement of his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, in breach of article 18 (1) of the Covenant.


The State party is obligated to expunge the author’s criminal record and to provide him with adequate compensation, including by reimbursing any legal costs incurred by the author. The State party is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. In this connection, the Committee reiterates that, in accordance with its obligation under article 2 (2) of the Covenant, the State party should review its legislation with a view to ensuring the effective guarantee of the right to conscientious objection under article 18 (1) of the Covenant, for instance, by providing for the possibility of alternative service of a civilian nature.


Deadline: 11 October 2022

More info on the case:

Human Rights Without Frontiers - Turkmenistan: Situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Forum 19 - Turkmenistan: Jailings of conscientious objectors resume

Office of Public Information of Jehovah’s Witnesses - Information On Conscientious Objection To Military Service Involving Jehovah’s Witnesses

By: Irene Aparicio

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